Regina Gradess explains that her mother Pearl Rosenzveig, made “the best chicken soup. When I was young, she’d make it most Friday nights. It was hot and clear with matzah balls, carrots, and parsley root, (or petrajaim in Hungarian).”
Happy new year.
No, it’s not too early for the good wishes, not if you are deep in preparation for the Jewish high holiday of Rosh Hashanah this week, which will begin at sundown Wednesday, Sept. 28th and end at sundown on Friday, Sept. 30th. Rosh Hashanah, which translates literally into “Head of the Year,” is marked by a number of symbolic observances, including the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, the recitation of prayers, and the lighting of candles.
And there is the food.
Throughout Rosh Hashanah, slices of challah bread – and apples – are dipped in honey and eaten. These represent appreciation for the abundance and blessings of the year past, and the desire for a sweet new year to come.
And as with all gatherings in which family and friends gather over a festive repast, there is much to savor. Still, some recipes have earned themselves, and their creators, a singular place of distinction and nostalgia for many local residents.
For Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, Community Liaison for New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat of The Bronx and Manhattan, the holiday is a true celebration of the community she has lived and loved for so long.
In offering a recipe for herring salad, she makes the following note, “For years our synagogue, Beth Am, The People's Temple, has had a congregational pot-luck lunch following services on the first day of Rosh Hashana – how much nicer to break bread together after such an intense worship experience.” And so the herring recipe she offers is Aunt Ruth’s, her neighbor Helen Blumenthal’s Aunt Ruth’s, to be precise. After Aunt Ruth passed away, the loss of her salad dish at the community pot-luck was lamented. Ritter and her neighbor Blumenthal set out to recreate it, “based on our recollections of how it ‘should’ taste.”
Regina Gradess, co-curator of the Armin and Estelle Gold Gallery at the Hebrew Tabernacle on Fort Washington Avenue, feasted on her mother Pearl’s chicken soup growing up. She too has chosen to recreate it, as her mother has begun to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and can make mistakes. “I think the moral for our generation is - If you want a recipe to stay in the family, learn it while your loved one is around.”
Daniel Gwirtzman, founder of his eponymously named dance company, offers his mother Wendy’s sweet potato casserole, branding it also “the best.”
For Donald Simon, Assistant Vice President for Governmental Affairs at Monroe College, the meal is also about the memories – and the aromatic fragrances of the day. He describes his family’s brisket, flavored with paprika, pepper, and cinnamon, as “simple, but wonderful.” He adds, “It is one of the great smells of yomtov (a Jewish holiday).”
Gathered here is a small sample of the delicious plates that will be served, with care, on many a local dinner table this week. Jewish or not, grab an apron, fire up the oven.
Shanah Tovah U'Metukah [Happy and sweet new year].
Auth Ruth’s Herring and Beet Salad
Courtesy of Elizabeth Lorris Ritter and Helen Blumenthal. Ritter notes, “The recipe includes the amounts Helen uses when feeding a crowd; the numbers in parentheses yield a more sensible quantity for home use.”
3 quarts (1 qt) herring in wine sauce
1/2 gal (1 qt) sour cream
4 large (2 small) apples – like Macintosh, crisp and slightly tart
5 softball-sized (2 baseball-sized) beets
2 large (1 med) yellow or Spanish or Vidalia onions (depending on taste)
- Drain the herring and remove some of the onions and spices; cut the large pieces in half.
- Roast or steam the beets; this can take 45 min to an hour depending on size, and can be done in advance.
- Peel the beets, and cut them, the apples and the onions into large chunks.
- Mix everything together. Result should be a bright pink salad. Serve on lettuce if desired.
Donald Simon’s “Simple, but Wonderful” Family Brisket
Courtesy of Dean Donald Simon, who explains that this dish will not only generate family memories for years to come, but that even a novice chef should give it a whirl; his method ensures that this brisket “can never be overcooked.”
A large brisket (five pounds)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp paprika
A dash of cinnamon
2 cloves garlic chopped fine
2 medium potatoes cut into chunks or use small white potatoes
3 large carrots cut into chunks
1 large onion cut into chunks
3 ribs of celery cut into chunks
1 small can of tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 bottle of beer
- Season the meat with salt, pepper, and paprika. Place in roaster or large pot. Cover with the rest of the ingredients. Save one sip of beer that will be consumed by the chef.
- Place in 325-degree oven for at least three hours.
- Remove from oven.
- Take meat from pot and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
- Slice meat and return it to the pot (making sure it is covered by liquid and vegetables).
- Take from refrigerator, skim any fat from the surface, and place in the oven to heat.
- When served, try a little horse radish to spice up the meat. But only a little!
Daniel Gwirtzman, founder and director of the Washington Heights-based modern dance group, The Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company, shares the beloved recipe for sweet potatoes that his mother, Wendy Gwirtman, shown here on the right, will prepare for the high holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Courtesy of Daniel Gwirtzman, founder and director of the Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company, who shares the recipe his mother, Wendy Gwirtzman, has perfected for sweet potatoes.
For the potatoes:
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
2/3 C orange juice
1 T grated orange rind
5 T brandy
1-2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Ground ginger
Pepper to taste
4 T melted margarine
1/3 C light brown sugar
3 egg yolks
For the praline topping:
2/3 C light brown sugar
1 stick margarine (melted)
1 C chopped pecans
1 tsp. Cinnamon
- Cook, peel, cut up sweet potatoes.
- Add to mixing bowl, and beat well.
- Add all remaining ingredients.
- Mix until light and fluffy, and grease a 2-qt. Casserole or porcelain quiche dish.
- Pour in potato mixture.
- Make praline topping, and spread evenly over yams.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, and let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- May be refrigerated, unbaked, overnight.
Note: Cooked butternut squash and cooked pears can be added to the sweet potatoes; make certain to include this in the 2 lb. amount.
Regina Gradess, shown here embracing her mother Pearl Rosenzveig, shares her mother’s chicken soup recipe. She says, “When I was young she’d make it most Friday nights.”
My Mother’s Chicken Soup
Courtesy of Regina Gradess, Co-Curator of the Armin and Estelle Gold Gallery at the Hebrew Tabernacle. She writes, “My mom, Pearl Rosenzveig, made the best chicken soup. When I was young, she’d make it most Friday nights. It was hot and clear with matzah balls, carrots, and parsley root, (or petrajaim in Hungarian).”
1 old tough fowl - the older birds have more flavor
Chicken feet if you really want more flavor
4 carrots- peeled and cut into large pieces
3 stalks of celery cut into large pieces
1 medium parsley root, peeled and cut into strips and/or chunky coins
Parsley tops tied with a string, or cut the top so that it’s attached to the root
Salt - start with a tablespoon
A few pepper corns tied into cheesecloth
- Wash and cut up chicken.
- Simmer several hours in a large pot of salted water till the meat falls off the bone.
- Set meat aside.
- Chill the remaining soup for several hours until the fat solidifies and can be skimmed off the surface.
- Put soup back on the flame, add chicken and the vegetables and simmer till the carrots are done.
- Make matzah balls according to the directions on the matzah meal box.
- Cook them separately in water, not in the soup.
- Add them to the soup pot before serving.
- Serve with rye bread and ice cold seltzer to drink.
Apple Cake with Honey Sauce
Courtesy of Elizabeth Lorris Ritter and her friend and neighbor, Helen Blumenthal. “It's a delicious cake,” Ritter. She adds, “There is an optional sauce which is tasty, but very sweet, and we both like the cake just as-is.”
Note from Ritter also: The whipped cream doesn't usually make it onto the plate since the cake is generally dessert after a holiday meal, which usually involves meat or chicken, and many Jews follow dietary laws which forbid the mixing of dairy and meat in the same dish or meal.
For the cake:
4 to 5 firm apples, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch slices
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 cups flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the honey sauce:
1 cup honey
1 cup apple juice or cider
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cinnamon and 1/4 cup of the sugar, then add the apples and toss to combine. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the remaining sugar, flour, baking powder, oil, eggs, orange juice, salt and vanilla extract.
- Beat just until the batter is smooth.
- Pour an inch of the batter into the prepared pan and top it with a layer of apple slices, taking care not to let the apples touch the side of the pan; then add alternating layers of apple slices and batter, ending with the batter.
- You should have 4 layers of batter and 3 of apples.
- Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan for 30 minutes on a wire rack, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool thoroughly.
Honey Sauce Preparation
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the honey and apple juice or cider and bring to a boil.
- Stirring constantly, continue boiling until the mixture thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.
- For a thicker sauce, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, a few minutes more, until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Serve the cake with the warm honey sauce on the side or with whipped cream.